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  • Miles Hedley

MELTING, SHIFTING, LIQUID WORLD at the National Maritime Museum

Updated: Mar 22, 2019

I watched the opening of Hollie Harding’s new composition from the frozen shore of the Kara Sea. Later, I travelled 8,000 miles south to listen on Tristan Da Cunha. Later still, I stood among the giant moai of Easter Island. And I took a seat for the finale of Melting, Shifting, Liquid World on a tropical beach in Madagascar.

Harding’s work - her impassioned response to global warming, rising sea-levels and the spiralling crisis of plastic waste in our oceans – was written specifically to be performed on the Great Map floor of the National Maritime Museum, the perfect setting for such a piece and, handily, a stone’s throw from Trinity Laban where she is doing a PhD.

It meant those of us who were lucky enough to be at one of the three after-dark shows could move at will around the planet while the Trinity Laban String Ensemble, directed by Nic Pendlebury on electric viola, played this remarkable creation which combined fabulous live music with taped harmonies, drones, sea-sounds, oscillating sine-waves, poetry and white noise.

The effect of this multi-layered, multimedia approach was nothing less than scintillating, the evocative strains of Harding’s orchestration counterpointing the often unsettling sensation caused by the pre-recorded sonic textures fed to us through headphones.

It helped, of course, that Pendlebury – standing on a dais somewhere near Timbuktu - and his 21 musicians were in magical form, their virtuosity creating a synergy rarely seen in live performances of such complexity.

And the concert was given added depth with costumes created by Rosie Whiting, Florence Meredith, Estera Parker and Sophie Donaldson which featured plastic waste, discarded fishing nets and other dumped rubbish to drive home the message that our seas and their wildlife are being choked by garbage as well as lethal temperature rises.

But the real star of the show was Harding, whose brilliant score and setting made this one of the finest immersive performances I have ever had the pleasure of seeing – and I’ve seen some great ones over the years.

She composed the piece as the concluding work of a PhD thesis. That doctorate must surely now be a shoe-in.

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